When Ashley Holliday competed for Columbus North as a freshman last season, she was immediately thrust into the spotlight.
Because of an injury to standout Katrina May that caused her to miss part of the season, Holliday had to perform as the Bull Dogs’ top gymnast for several meets.
Now, with May back healthy as a junior, and with the emergence of freshman Claire Thompson and the steadiness of senior Kaitlyn Barnes, Holliday doesn’t have the burden of trying to lead the team in every event.
“Last year as a freshman, she had so much pressure because Katrina was hurt for part of the season, and a lot of the pressure was on her to anchor the team on the other events,” North co-coach Bob Arthur said. “This year, with Katrina healthy and with Claire being in there and Kaitlyn, it’s been very steady all year long. She may not have some of the skills that the other three have, but she is very consistent, so we know what we’re going to get out of her on an event.”
Most of the time, the Bull Dogs have gotten big scores out of her, especially on the bars. Holliday, who finished second in the state on the bars last season, defended her bars title in last week’s Columbus East Regional.
“She’s very aggressive,” Arthur said. “Her small frame helps her, too. She has some skills that are done very, very well. Her mount and her bail mount-to-handstand is an advanced high superior, and then she finishes with a very nice double.
“That’s a lot of the stock things you’re going to see out of the other kids, but it all boils down to execution. She pays attention to detail, and it’s been paying off for her.”
“(Bars is) my favorite, too,” Holliday said. “I’ve always liked it a lot. I’ve liked working on it, so maybe that helped.”
Holliday, who scored a 9.55 on the bars in the regional, also finished second on the vault with a 9.625 and took third in the all-around competition with a 37.325. Last year, she finished 15th at state in the all-around but would have been second if not for two falls on the beam and one on the floor.
“I think one of Ashley’s big strengths is her power,” co-coach Sandy Freshour said. “She is a really powerful gymnast, so that is showcased quite a bit in bars and vault. It’s a little bit harder to control that power on beam and floor. She has to work really hard to focus that control.
“I think this year as a sophomore, she is more confident in herself and her ability,” she said. “I think she sees herself as a team leader and a contributor. She’s not always as confident as the other girls, but she’s worked super hard this year to be more confident in every event.”
Saturday afternoon, Holliday will try to help lead the Bull Dogs to their first state title since 1974. Second-ranked North hopes to unseat No. 1 and defending champion Valparaiso.
“It’s been a good season for me and my team,” Holliday said. “I think we’ve made a lot of improvements from last year. I think if we all hit all of our routines, and if we all have a really good meet and do what we are capable of doing, we have a good chance.”
Individually, Holliday hopes to maybe win the bars and place in the top six in the all-around.
“That would be awesome,” Holliday said. “I would love to do that. I’m going to try my hardest, and hopefully something good will come out of it.”
What: Gymnastics State Finals
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ball State’s Worthen Arena in Muncie
Teams: Columbus North, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Dwenger, Homestead, Logansport, New Palestine, Owen Valley, Portage and Valparaiso
Local individuals: Becca Bryan (Columbus East), Alyssa Goen (Seymour)